Get Your Laughing Tackle Around this
I walked out of the Hall leaving my mother with her wine and new friends. She was not at all shy and knew how to adapt to most situations. She always behaved very correctly and could be both charming and amusing when in company, even if she had just met them for the first time.
I just wanted to know where my father and Julie had wandered off to.
There was a bar in the building down in the basement which was always full of students and very noisy. I could not imagine my father down there mixing with a bunch of longhaired “layabouts” as he liked to call them. But I took the stairs down past the caretaker’s room and the boiler and along a dimly-lit passage. A couple was getting to know each other in a doorway and did not hear me as I hurried past them. I entered the packed bar and tried to see if my father or Julie were amongst the revelers.
I shouted to the barman, “You seen Julie?” He shook his head and continued pouring pints of beer. Two minutes later, I was back outside on the street heading towards The Philharmonic Pub.
There was a wine bar and a pizza restaurant on the way but I didn’t think that my father would have gone into either. The wine bar was surprisingly empty for a Friday evening and I could see that they were not inside. Then I went next door to the pizza restaurant, which had the unique name of “Pizza Pizza Pizza”. This place was packed. It was the supper rush, so I weaved my way between the tables to the open kitchen at the back were Holly was adding toppings to the pizza bases. He had just released a record called Relax with his band “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”.
“I hope I won’t be doing this much longer!”
“We can all dream,” I said. I couldn’t see Julie or my Father so I said good luck to Holly and left.
I walked through the door of The Philharmonic Pub, and there they were sitting at a table right up front. They were laughing at a comment made by my father, so it took a couple of “Hellos” and a “How are you two?” before they noticed me.
My father said, “Get yourself a drink,” and handed me a £5 note.
“Thanks.” I walked to the bar looking in wonderment at the money. It felt warm from being in his pocket, and out of some subconscious reflex I lifted it to my nose to smell it. Old Spice. I wanted to keep it, but I knew he would expect his change. I got a pint and returned to the table. I handed him his change, and waving a hand in my direction dismissively he said, “Oh, keep it”.
What spell had Julie cast over him?! He could see the colour of her skin, but it didn’t matter. He leaned closer to whisper into her ear. Were all his racist comments just some macho swagger, lies shouted to impress or to intimidate the listener?
“Do you need any money?” he asked Julie, and I nearly fell off my chair. Is this the same man who told me to leave home when I told him I was going to art college? “If you aren’t going to get a job, I’m not going to support you!” So I had left home.
What had changed? We walked back up Hardman Street to meet my mother who was still holding court at the far end of the Hall.
“I’ve just met some wonderful people,” she said as we walked out the door. “He’s a lawyer you know. I’ve invited them to dinner next Saturday,” she said to my father. “Do we get an invite?” I asked. “Hardly!” both my mother and father said together.
The spell was broken and they got into their car saying, “Good night”, and drove away. Julie and I walked to a small dive of a pub called “Ye Cracke”, and as I ordered our drinks, Nina Simone was singing I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free on the jukebox.